I’m sure you’ve seen ads for the “new miracle juice”, aloe vera. If you Google it, you’ll see that drinking aloe vera is apparently aids in weight loss, digestion, immune function, and “easing general discomfort”. But if you look beyond the first 40 or so results (all the sites that tout the benefits of aloe vera are also trying to sell it to you, funny how that works), you’ll find a whole other story.
Despite the huge amount of marketing, there is very little scientific data to support the use of aloe vera in humans. What’s more, there are some alarming results of toxicity in animals.
Aloe vera has been use for almost 5,000 years to ancient Egypt. Aloe vera gel, found from breaking open the skin of the plant, is great for treating burns, abrasions, psoriasis, and other sking conditions. Aloe vera juice is made from the green outer leaf. Until 2002, it was used as a main ingredient in over-the-counter laxatives. In 2002, the FDA pulled them from shelves due to lack of safety information.
A 2001 study by the National Toxicology Program, has raised concerns about drinking aloe vera juice. The researchers gave rats whole-leaf extract of aloe vera juice and found “clear evidence of carcinogenic activity in male and female rats, based on tumors of the large intestine.
Remember, however, that this study was done on animals. That does not mean that a study in humans would yield similar results. Also, the study used non-decolorized, whole-leaf aloe vera extract. The way aloe vera is processed can impace the compounds in the plant and thus the impact on your body. For example, the process of decolorizing aloe vera leaf removes its laxative properties. These properties were still in the aloe vera leaf in the study. One specifically, Aloin, is thought to be the driving force behind tumors.
There is 2004 U.K. study in which researchers gave people with active ulcerative colitis aloe vera gel to drink (remember in the animal study, they used aloe vera juice, not gel). After four weeks, there was a clinical response towards improvement and remission of ulcerative colitis, compared to the control group which was given plain water. No significant negative side effects were seen due to drinking the aloe vera gel.
So, what should you take from all of this? The story is not as clear as the marketing would have you believe. It’s probably safe to wait for more human research to show significant human benefits.
Do any of you Rockheads drink aloe vera juice? Have you seen any results?